How to Use Lye Water for Cleaning

Lye can be dangerously corrosive when mixed with water: But the two make an effective cleaning agent when carefully combined. The many uses of lye water include cleaning cast-iron cookware and bleaching wood for refinishing. Lye water is also sold premixed and concentrated. This makes it easier to create a gentler cleanser for objects made from natural materials, such as wooden bowls and bamboo utensils.

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Use stainless steel equipment when working with lye.

Cleaning Cast-Iron Utensils

Step 1

Add 1 can of lye to 4 or 5 gallons of water in a plastic container. Mix with a stainless steel spoon.

Step 2

Tie the utensils to steel coat hangers with wire.

Step 3

Slowly immerse the utensils in the lye water. Keep them suspended in the water by hooking each hanger around the edge of the plastic container.

Step 4

Let the utensils soak for several days, up to a week. This is enough time to properly clean them, but the utensils will not be damaged if you leave them in longer.

Step 5

Carefully lift up each coat hanger and untie the utensils.

Step 6

Rinse each utensil in vinegar, then in water. The vinegar neutralizes any remaining lye.

Step 7

Wipe away any remaining grease with a steel scouring pad or brush. Soak the utensils again if necessary.

Step 8

Wash each utensil with dish soap and warm water. Rinse thoroughly.

Step 9

Dry the utensils in an oven set to 200 degrees Fahrenheit. Let them cool completely.

Step 10

Apply mineral oil to the utensils with a cloth. Let them stand overnight.

Step 11

Wipe off any excess oil with a paper towel.

Bleaching Wood Furniture

Step 1

Mix 1 oz. lye with 1 quart of water. Let it sit until the crystals dissolve.

Step 2

Use paper towels to apply an even coat of lye water to the wood. Let it absorb for about 15 minutes.

Step 3

Apply an even coat of hydrogen peroxide over the treated wood. Let it sit for another 15 minutes.

Step 4

Add another coat of lye water to the wood. Let it sit for 15 minutes, then coat with hydrogen peroxide. Apply 5 coats of each, letting the wood dry for 15 minutes between applications.

Step 5

Wipe the wood with vinegar to remove excess lye and neutralize any residue.

Step 6

Wipe the wood with water. The addition of water is what will cause the wood to lighten. Dry with paper towels.

Cleaning Objects Made From Natural Materials

Step 1

Add 1 tbsp. commercial lye water to 4 cups hot water in a stainless steel pot. Bring the solution to a boil.

Step 2

Add the object to be cleaned. Hold it under the water with a ladle or potato masher.

Step 3

Remove the object and rinse it twice in hot water.

Step 4

Mix 2 tbsp vinegar with 4 cups warm water. Rinse the object with the solution and follow with a plain water rinse.